Angie's List: Properly prepping before you paint will make it last

Do it right now, or face doing it again too soon

TAMPA - A fresh coat of paint can help improve your home's curb appeal. It's a big job that can be costly and time consuming. If you're going to all the expense and aggravation of painting, make sure it's done right. That starts with taking the time and effort to properly prep your house.

"A lot of homeowners tend to tackle painting on their own," said Angie Hicks, founder of the consumer website Angie's List . "But keep in mind the most common mistake made is not properly prepping before you paint. A lot of times consumers underestimate the true work involved in prepping properly. Scrapping and getting the surface clean is really important to a lasting paint job. Also, keep in mind if you have a two-story house and you don't have the proper ladders it can be dangerous too."

How do you know when it's time to paint?

  • A good paint job should last 5-10 years.
  • The most obvious sign that you're home's exterior needs a fresh coat of paint is peeling.
  • Check the side of your house that gets the most weather exposure – this will be the side where the paint begins to show signs of wear first.
  • Peeling paint allows water to seep into the wood and can cause the wood to rot.

Paint preparation:

  • One of the most common mistakes amateur house painters make is failing to properly prepare the surface to be painted. If there is any peeling it's essential to scrape off any loose paint. Then, the bare spot needs to be sanded until the paint edges are smooth. If you're not willing to put in this type of effort, hire someone. Otherwise you will invest time and money into a paint job that won't last.
  • You also need to protect the surrounding area from paint splatter or other damage from the work. Cover air conditioning units, landscaping and other surfaces close to the work area with drop cloths, old sheets or blankets. Windows and doors should be taped off, while accessories such as light fixtures, doorbells, shutters, mailboxes and other detailed features might be simply removed and put back on after the job is done.
  • If you have a one-story house with minimal peeling and you have plenty of time, you can probably do the job yourself and save money. Again, if you're not willing or able to put in the work that is involved in preparing your house for painting, hire a professional. Andy Wagoner, a painting contractor, explains what they do. "We would come out and we would chemically clean the home and rinse it. Following that we would do any scraping, sanding, and caulking that would need to occur. Spot priming as well. We do not rush the process. We are very thorough in our approach to the preparation. Then, depending on how many coats will be applied, we would put a coat on one day, wait and apply the next coat the following day."

Picking out the right paint:

  • Although exterior and interior painting shares many characteristics, the paints themselves are formulated differently. The binders and additives in outdoor paint are formulated to resist the elements well, while indoor paint most likely will not.
  • The materials of the home's facade should be considered. When painting flat surfaces like siding or wood, you can opt for standard outdoor paint. When painting a textured surface like stucco or brick, "elastomeric" paint is a much better choice. This type of paint can stretch more than normal paint, which allows it to bridge over small gaps and crevices, painting smoothly over texture.
  • Climate is another factor to consider. Sunlight, wind, rain and salty weather can all wear out paint. Oil-based paint is durable against wind, rain and temperature changes, but sunlight tends to degrade it. Alkyd paint chalks and sheds very thin layers when it begins to wear. Latex paint is the more durable option for very sun-drenched and relatively dry climate areas. Latex paint with high vinyl content should be avoided, however. Acrylic resin is by far the more durable binder for outdoor latex paint.
  • Areas that are subject to a lot of moisture, like the skirting around houses, may require mold-resistant paint, like outdoor paint with fungicide added. Another specialty paint to consider is a flame-resistant brand. Paint that resists fire rather than combusting could be a life saver for homeowners in wildfire-prone areas.
  • Though buying high-quality, specialty paint and getting a professional to apply it can be expensive, the investment will pay off with a high-quality, long-lasting paint job. Low-quality paint often lasts half as long as high-quality paint and even shorter if it's not applied properly.

Picking a color:

  • Take surrounding landscaping into consideration: If you have ornamental or colorful trees, shrubbery or floral selections around your home you should figure their colors into the color scheme selection that is made. Homes that have a great deal of trees can make the property darker and cast shadows onto the home. Avoid darker colors for these situations.
  • Accentuate the home's attractive details:
    • Entryways, windows, shutters and other details on the home can be painted to make their design noticeable. However features such as gutters, downspouts, external air conditioning systems, unevenly proportioned windows and protruding garage doors should not be completed to draw attention to them as this will provide a negative results.
    • Consider colors of the home that cannot be changed: There are permanent features of the home that have their own colors which cannot be changed when painting the exterior of the home, but can have a dramatic satisfaction level that is experienced when the painting is completed. Roofing shingles, paving blocks, concrete surfaces, stones and other such features are prime examples of the colors that should be considered when selecting your exterior color scheme for the home.

    Tips for hiring a professional exterior painter:

    • Ask how long the contractor has been in business.
    • Are employees experienced painters? Ask what training and qualifications they have.
    • Does the contractor have insurance? Painters typically work with ladders – insurance will help protect the company and you.
    • Ask about costs. Prices usually vary depending on the quality of paint use, the size of the area that needs to be covered, the difficulty of reaching areas that need to be painted, etc. If you can't afford to paint your entire house at this time, focus on the trim, downspouts, gutters, doors, or entryway.
    • Ask what type of prep work the painting contractor has to do (sand, power wash, etc.)
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